We were hopeful of completing the new floor and wall for the slum home of a poor elderly couple. But it was not to be. The amount of work exceeded our estimation. It could have been completed if we had better skills and tools. We had no lack of hands. We lacked skills and confidence. Nevertheless the team learned quickly by observing how Steve did things. He was amazing to watch. In fact it was fun to see how he handled different challenges and problems in the course of construction.
The floor boards were made of some kind of composite of concrete and fibre. They were heavy and even five of us urbanites could not lift them. However two of their locals easily lifted and carried all of them for us to the house.
I was not of much help to the construction, and sort of fell into the role of “unofficial” photographer and storyteller. So today I focused on taking good photos and on telling the story. I became more serious about camera angles, and interviewed the initiator and leader of the Ruth Center. I spent an hour talking to Noi the diminutive “giant” who ministered among the elderly poor. This story will require a post in itself.
So at the end of the day, we finished 90% of the floor and 70% of the walls and decided to call it a day as it was over 5pm. Then we had to give away “Cold Storage” school bags to the poor school children of the slums.
By the time we were in the van, it was 6pm. This was risky. And our anxiety was proven true for we got stuck in the Bangkok peak traffic jam at Sukhumvit. The van was stationary for close to 10 minutes. Nothing moved. So when we saw the Rembrandt Hotel through the van window, we decided unanimously to take a walk. We reached the hotel in 15minutes! I think by the time we entered the hotel, the van might have moved a mere 100 metres.
We were learning when to be patient and when to be decisive.
Today I left home at about 9am and reached Rembrandt Hotel in Bangkok at about 4.30pm. This was a whole day given to travelling by car, plane and train, and quite a bit of walking with luggage in tow.
We were here to do some building work among the poor for Ruth Center in Bangkok. Last year we had a camp cum missions trip and had worked with them. This year we wanted to come help them with a small team of men who believe that donating their leave, money and strength and skills are one way of serving in the missions field.
Tonight we went for a team dinner but where we went did not have big enough tables and seating for eleven persons. So we split up and enjoyed our Thai traditional dishes in a restaurant called INTER near the Siam Station of BTS.
The seven day rest was sweet. They were days of eating well. We were in Bangkok, in my wife’s sister’s home. Breakfasts were leisurely and we had homemade chwee kueh and carrot cake besides the great walnut bread and Thai avocado. Lunch was mostly in the shopping malls. We enjoyed the Thai meals at Banana Leaf. And there were many Japanese restaurants but we liked Fuji Japanese restaurant. Dinner was mostly at family run restaurants located at or near the condo.
The weather was lovely and refreshing, from 18 to 25 degrees centigrade. The cool breeze flowed into the home through the open balcony while we had breakfast. At night the cold air passed through the mosquito mesh and chilled the bedroom. During a day trip to the Bangsean Beach at Chon Buri, we had to wear windbreakers. If these temperatures prevailed through the year Bangkok would be a delightful and inexpensive place to live in.
I was tired and it was good to get into a rhythm of sleep and eat and shop. The shopping malls were similar to what we have in Singapore. Some local brands like BreadTalk and Charles and Keith and all the usual international brands were represented. Imported products were not any cheaper than what you had to pay in Singapore. The MacBook Air sold at the same price as in Singapore. However there were some sales going on and we took full advantage of that.
Chinese New Year is not celebrated in Thailand. There are no public holidays given. In Singapore, we have two public holidays on Monday and Tuesday. Over in Bangkok these were working days for everyone. So it’s a good place to have your “escape” from the stress of Chinese New Year celebrations in Singapore. All the shops and restaurants were open. There were no long queues outside popular restaurants. In fact we had steamboat at MK for the reunion dinner. It was like any other day – business as usual.
I brought two books along Unfolding His Story by Georgie Lee and Galven Lee and Preaching by Timothy Keller. I finished the former by day three and was three quarters through reading the latter. Both were good books and I hope to share my reflections on them in this blog.
My wife’s sister Baby showed great and attentive hospitality and we were greatly blessed by the attention to detail and her constant thoughtfulness and patience. She did the bargaining in the 180 year old market and in the shopping malls, and in getting information from Thai vendors. She has lived in Bangkok for over two decades and speaks Thai with ease (which makes her tri-lingual!).
Near the end it became stressful because our shopping booty was more than the luggage weight we purchased. We had to buy additional weight to bring all our shopping home. Besides this minor glitch, we had a great escape indeed: great rest, food, shopping, reading and unwinding from all the strains of Singapore life. I returned refreshed.